Time is ticking for analog and ISDN

How to optimally prepare your business for Voice-over-IP

The migration from analog or ISDN to Voice-over-IP can lead to significant changes in business communications. For private customers, the migration is generally easy to implement. Many companies, however, face far-reaching changes. Join us on our journey into the future of IP communications.

Next Generation Networks at a glance

Next Generation Networks (NGNs), or All-IP, are the future of voice and data communications. Both worlds are connected in a common network. Voice-over-IP (VoIP) connections are the successors to ISDN and analog connections. In other words, phone calls are made through an IP-based internet connection. A separate telephone connection or NTBAs are no longer required. A NGN is characterized by all services using the same common infrastructure with one standardized protocol. In the future, IT and telephony are no longer two separate areas, but share the same hardware.
All important standards for Unified Communications (UC) are defined by means of the Internet protocol (IP). Other protocols build on IP, such as the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) for establishing a telephone connection. For the infrastructure in your company, this means that all phones require only a single connection to the network to use the services it provides. With IP-based connections, the migration to VoIP offers great opportunities for companies to make processes much more efficient and merge the different communication channels with each other.

ISDN becomes SIP trunks

SIP is the most widely used connection protocol for IP telephony. SIP trunks are usually offered by Internet service providers (ISPs) and replace all types of analog and ISDN connections. Whereas the number of lines is limited for traditional analog and ISDN, usually any number of lines and phone numbers can be booked from SIP trunk providers. This is a purely virtual service. The expansion of existing SIP trunks is usually done with a single click in the web interface of the ISP, or a phone call. ISPs provide more flexible terms than analog or ISDN providers. Instead of two channels per ISDN BRI line or 32 channels per ISDN PRI line, any additional number of lines and numbers can be booked usually without signing long-lasting contracts.
Even blocks of 1000 phone numbers, which were so far an exclusive feature of PRI lines, can be booked with SIP trunks. For additional voice channels, no physical connections are required. Porting phone numbers of existing analog or ISDN lines towards IP telephony, is also no problem. Since the numbers are no longer wired, they can be passed between vendors with little effort. Many SIP providers even offer this service for free. It is also possible to register foreign SIP trunks to offer local phone numbers to customers abroad, or to call abroad at a reduced rate.

LAN now also does telephony

VoIP uses the infrastructure of the data network (LAN) to connect and operate all devices, such as IP PBX and IP phones. NTBAs and splitters are eliminated, as well as separate cabling for the telephone system. Instead of expensive phones that are compatible with only one type of PBX, users can now choose between a wide range of IP and softphones thanks to open standards. Devices and services can be used flexibly from anywhere in the network. In short, the user receives more performance, whereas costs are reduced.

No need to fear the change

Many companies still hesitate to switch to VoIP. Some fear the high workload when switching, or do not want to replace their current phone system that may have been taken into operation just recently. Others expect problems with their extended telecommunications infrastructure, as fax machines or electronic cash terminals can not be replaced overnight. The telecommunications environment of a typical medium-sized company does not only consist of the actual phone system and phones, but many other components. Door intercoms or alarm systems are often also connected to the phone system and in some cases even have their own telephone line.

Migration master plan

As with all strategically important projects, companies must first obtain an overview and determine the state of the existing telecommunications infrastructure. In addition to the telephone system, this includes the telecommunications periphery mentioned in the previous section. The duration of ongoing maintenance and service contracts also need to be considered. If it has not been done yet, the company should create a plan for the further development of their telecommunications infrastructure. The strategic planning points to immediate and intermediate-term investment. Before the move to VoIP, a fundamental decision has to be made: to either continue to use the present PBX hardware and build a bridge to the new technology, or to alternatively migrate completely to NGNs.
Gateways or interface cards can translate between your ISDN phone system, analog devices, and the new VoIP connections. This allows you to use the devices of your current telecommunications infrastructure mostly unchanged. However, you get the full NGN functionality range only by completely migrating your infrastructure and devices. First, however, your local network (LAN) must meet some basic requirements. All network components should support Quality of Service (QoS) in order to transmit voice packages preferentially and without delay. The option to power your devices via Power over Ethernet (PoE) as well as setting up different virtual networks (VLANs), is also useful and leads to a leaner infrastructure. Naturally, analog and ISDN phones must be replaced by IP phones.

Planning stage

Generally, a deadline should be defined for the migration towards VoIP. As it may still require a longer time frame, thorough planning and pre-configuration are essential. It is highly advisable to not rush into dismantling your old phone system. An example for the worst possible case would be to instantly and completely replace the old phone system with the new IP PBX on a Friday afternoon, and to directly start into daily business on Monday morning with the new technology, thus risking total failure.
Besides all technical challenges, the involvement and training of employees is critical as well, in order to gain their acceptance and understanding. New technologies inevitably lead to changes in business processes. For these reasons, a so-called soft migration should be planned in advance and eventually carried out, in which both the old and new phone systems coexist for a transitional period.

Soft migration

In case of a soft migration, both current and new PBX are operated in parallel for a transitional period. This allows to first test the functionality of the new system in a small part of the company, without affecting the daily business telephony. After the initial test and pilot stage, all departments telecommunications are gradually migrated. Each department should be trained in the new PBX and IP phones in order to use them effectively.
At the end of the soft migration, all proprietary system phones are replaced by IP phones. The new IP PBX is connected through a gateway to your analog or ISDN connection, or your old PBX. Further required analog and ISDN devices such as fax machines or alarm systems are also connected through gateways to the new PBX phone system.